I recently saw pictures of the forthcoming, eight-generation Chevrolet Corvette in a news story. Of course, the car was heavily camouflaged, and it was being piloted through Manhattan by Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter, with GM CEO and Chairwoman Mary Barra riding shotgun. Both of their faces positively beamed in a way that a genuine smile radiates from the inside out. These were not typical auto conglomerate upper-management press photo smiles. Barra and Juechter looked like they were having a ball, and their enthusiasm for GM’s new baby was apparent and inspiring. Bless them.
However, when I viewed a profile shot of this C8-in-disguise, I paused… long and hard. It has been out there for a while that the upcoming 2020 Corvette will have its engine mid-ship, breaking a 66-year tradition of front-engined cars. Mine is probably only one of a least a handful of CC articles that will reference the new ‘Vette, and as is my normal practice, I will defer writing about details of the technical specifics of the new car to other contributors who are better qualified to do so.
From a visual standpoint, however, I don’t know that I’m ready for mid-engine proportions on a car called “Corvette”. When the C7 was introduced for model year 2014, I thought it featured many daring visual cues that broke with tradition, not the least of which were the non-round twin taillamp clusters. The current design is creased and still looks menacing, even if I feel it has aged more quickly than some of the cleaner designs that preceded it. (The C5 still looks good to me, today.) The most important thing about the seventh-generation car, though, was that even with all of the changes in its visual identity from what came before it, it still looked like a Corvette.
Our featured ’81, from the C3’s penultimate year of production, was one of about 40,600 units – a sales figure that was flat over the prior year, and impressively so for a basic design that was thirteen years old at the time. To your author, a kid who came of age in the ’80s, this red car is quintessentially “Corvette”. Yeah, there’s that ubiquitous Prince song that many of us could sing while half-asleep, but this example’s Corvette-ness goes even deeper than that for me. It’s red. It’s hot. The t-tops are off. Corvettes just like this one were the epitome of cool to so many kids my age. I’ve written all of this before in a previous post on a different C3 that was parked in this very same spot seven years prior to when I took these photos.
This Corvette has a long hood, curved rear glass, and proportions traditionally associated with these cars. The C8 has none of these things. In my personal life, I’ve been trying to open up more to embracing the inevitabilities of change – at the office, in personal relationships, finances, and just in general. It may sound cliche, but it’s true that change really is the only constant, and in so many areas. So, why am I having such a hard time with the Corvette’s substantial reinvention for 2020? I am, as in current parlance, genuinely shook.
The pizzeria in the background of many of these photos, Gino’s North (as also seen directly above and which I had referenced in a previous piece), serves as a very good metaphor for what appears to be up next for Chevy’s iconic fiberglass sports car. In the decade-plus that I’ve lived in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, Gino’s North has been one of my favorite restaurants – for the delicious food and cocktails, ambiance, history, great prices, jukebox, and friendly service. I used to love the very old-school glass block facade and neon sign that proclaimed “OPEN ‘TIL 2 AM”. The wood paneling on the inside and jazz on the jukebox (yes, I played that Kenny Burrell you’re all bopping to) contributed to the throwback experience of enjoying a pie at an eatery that had been open since 1941.
Then came the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA’s) semi-modernization project of the Granville station, under which Gino’s North is located. Upon completion of this project, the entire front of the restaurant had been opened up with floor-to-ceiling windows. The wood paneling in the main dining area had gone away. It suddenly felt like I was enjoying my “Gino’s Special” twelve-inch pizza and Maker’s Mark Manhattan inside of a giant fishbowl. People would now stop and gawk in from the outside. The slightly-seedy-but-not-really vibe was gone, and I missed it. This place lost much of its magic with me, at the time. I didn’t stop going, though.
Fast forward seven years to present day, and I’ve come to love the giant windows (which are lovely during a fluffy snowfall in winter) and wide-open ambiance. Some sort of shift in my tastes and/or acceptance had eventually occurred, and while I will always treasure my memories of my earlier experiences at Gino’s North, in 2019, I couldn’t imagine this place any other way than how it is today, post renovations.
As for the new Corvette, I know I will eventually come around. I also realize this isn’t the first time I’ve ever seen pictures of a mid-engined car with the “‘Vette” name attached to it, thinking specifically of the Aerovette concept of the mid-/late-1970s. The world continues to change, just as it always has. This former Billboard magazine junkie (who used to be able to rattle off the titles and artists of the songs in the weekly Top-10 on the Hot 100 chart with accuracy) probably couldn’t name ten artists in the entire top-40 right now. Both tastes and the substance of popular things evolve. It’s all good, though, and I do hope the radically redesigned Corvette is a success. Just give me time to genuinely love its proportions.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Thursday, August 2, 2018.